This post is a little different. I wanted to touch on something that is very important to me and probably to thousands of others out there – how do I get rid of a Helicobacter Pylori infection without the use of antibiotics? Well, let’s back up a bit. I started having digestive issues after a severe bout of food poisoning after consuming a bowl of macaroni and cheese at one of my favorite restaurants about three years ago. Oh how I wish that I could go back in time and order something else but I will say that the experience has given me a new appreciation for alternative forms of medicine. I did start having noticeable symptoms about 6 months after the initial food poisoning and then in September 2009 my health took a dramatic turn for the worse. I was waiting for my husband in the waiting room at the dentist’s office when all of a sudden I thought I was going to die! I got extremely dizzy, everything went hazy, and my hands began to shake. I was for sure that I was going to pass out but the only thing I could think of at the time was keeping my cool (I didn’t want to make a fool of myself in front of anyone!). I started instinctively doing deep breathing exercises and within a few seconds the dizziness subsided. I was still severely shaken up but seriously worried about what had just happened to me. Once we were home I immediately started researching my symptoms – panic attack. Whaaahhhtt? I have absolutely nothing to panic about so it of course worried me that maybe I was becoming mental or something. Unfortunately the anxiety never let up for about two years, during which time I visited doctor after doctor with no clear diagnosis. I was handed antidepressants and street drugs (aka Xanax) to cope. I knew something was wrong but why couldn’t anybody tell me what was going on??!! It wasn’t until I visited an extremely knowledgeable integrative physician (an M.D. with extra training in alternative therapies) that I finally got the pieces to fit together. I mentioned to her at one appointment that I felt better after eating, so off I went to be stabbed with needles for 5 hours for a glucose tolerance test. I thought it was a little pointless but did it anyways. I thought it was kinda dumb that I had to stay at the hospital for 5 hours and it was definitely the longest anxiety-ridden experience I have ever had. But guess what…at hour three I experienced one of the worst hypoglycemic attacks I have ever had. I started bawling and became very confused. Thankfully, my wonderful husband was by my side telling me it was going to be ok. Sure enough, my body recovered to normal levels by hour five.
What does all this have to do with h. pylori? Well, I have learned that all of our systems are delicately balanced with one another and if one system is struggling, it’s very likely that another is too. Long story short, I ended up at the gastroenterologist again, this time with a different doctor (don’t even get me started on the first one), and he decided, no wait, I DECIDED to ask for Rifaximin (an antibiotic for small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) because I was having some horrible – put a beach-ball under your shirt – kinda bloating, gas that could clear a room (I know, I know, not very lady-like but considering the subject, I’m not holding back), nausea, heart palpitations, breathing difficulties, and generally just feeling like CRAP! I went on the antibiotic and I pretty much felt like Superman. I was on top of the world! And the strangest of all, my hypoglycemia got infinitely better. Weird. But important because now I had a link to all my symptoms. It was also the first time that I realized our bodies cannot function properly with our digestive systems out of whack. I ended up going on the Rifaximin another time before, you guessed it, seeing yet another gastroenterologist. I currently still work with the same one because he really is knowledgeable about small bowel disorders and was the one who found the stupid little bugs clinging to life in my stomach. The second step was getting a stool analysis to confirm the positive serum antibody test. No surprise, it was positive. I declined the use of antibiotics and decided to give it a go with natural supplements and diet before considering going the conventional route.
Ok, so what are all of my symptoms? I’m not sure all of them can be attributed to the h. pylori but it certainly wasn’t making things any easier:
Anxiety (I no longer have it but it pretty much dissipated once I got on treatment for my hypoglycemia and digestive issues)
Fatigue/lethargy – some days I would roll from the bed to the couch and stay there pretty much all day
Shortness of breath
Lack of concentration
Recall memory problems
Some acid reflux (didn’t occur until I started the treatment – weird)
Lowered blood pressure
Weight gain – oh goody!
Now for the nitty gritty. How do you get rid of it?
Disclaimer: I am not a medical doctor but I chose these supplements based upon my own research. I also used all these supplements for 60 days and had another stool antigen test done and it was NEGATIVE. That’s right, I got rid of it with this protocol.
That dude was pretty smart. And completely right.
Diet: The best would be to avoid grains altogether (all grains provide carbohydrates that break down into sugar which subsequently feed the bacteria); however, at the very least, DO NOT eat white flour products such as white flour, potatoes, sugar, rice, tapioca etc. Eat lots of vegetables, squash, fruit, nuts, seeds, and protein such as chicken, beef, fish, pork etc. Pay attention to packaged foods and canned foods that may have hidden sugars such as high fructose corn syrup, glucose, sugar, brown sugar, and molasses. You may use stevia powder/liquid (can find at health food stores) or honey to sweeten foods. I know this sounds restrictive but it’s only until the h. pylori is eradicated; you can slowly add foods back into your diet as you can tolerate them. Keep in mind that after the bacteria is gone, it may take several months for any inflammation or gastritis that the bacteria caused to clear up.
Supplements: I chose the set of supplements that I am taking based on research with clinical trials that studied in vitro (in a lab) and in vivo (in a human) results and whether or not an herb or supplement inhibited the growth of h. pylori or killed the h. pylori.
· Monolaurin: Derived from coconut oil (coconut oil is by weight 50% lauric acid – the main constituent of Monolaurin) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16010969 *Whatever supplements you choose to use, if I can make one recommendation, it would be to take Monolaurin (2 capsules, 2 times a day). I also take 3 tablespoons of coconut oil daily to receive more of the benefits of lauric acid but it’s also great for your skin and hair
· Mastic Gum: Inhibits and kills h. pylori bacteria. Mastic Gum is great for ulcers too. You can use just the single supplement or use a product called Pyloricil by Ortho Molecular Products that includes zinc (great for immune function), berberine, bismuth, and mastic gum. I chose to use Pyloricil because of the studies behind zinc, mastic, and bismuth in eradicating h. pylori…but this is all up to personal preference because most people just use the mastic and have great results. The Pyloricil is an expensive supplement too, so that may deter some people.
· Vitamin C: I take 3 grams of vitamin C a day…it’s great for the immune system but also is an acid, so it does have some effect against any bacteria.
· Broccoli Sprouts: Sulforaphane (the active part of broccoli sprouts has been shown to inhibit and kill h. pylori and protect the stomach against inflammation and ulcers. Read this: http://www.pnas.org/content/99/11/7610.abstract. I used New Chapters Broccolive and continue to use it for the positive antioxidant protection.
· Oregano Oil: Great for digestion and it has antibiotic properties against h. pylori. Read this: http://www.dynamicchiropractic.com/mpacms/dc/article.php?id=50197
· Turmeric: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12553052 – I’ve seen a lot of research about Turmeric and plan to use it even after eradication of h. pylori.
· L. Glutamine: This amino acid heals any inflammation or damage caused by the bacteria. http://www.bidmc.org/News/InResearch/2009/May/StomachUlcers.aspx– I like to put the powder over my eggs or fruit in the morning. This is also a great supplement to use if you are weight lifting or struggling with intestinal permeability.
· Candex: These are enzymes that will help digest the biofilms that form over h. pylori preventing antibiotics or herbal formulas from eradicating the bacteria. There has been a lot of research about biofilms and there is compelling evidence that they have contributed to antibiotic resistance and hard to eradicate strains of h. pylori. I used two capsules, twice daily about 30 minutes before each meal.
· Lactoferrin: Helps modulate iron absorption during infection or inflammation. Lactoferrin also acts to “mop up” any iron that may have been used in the creation of biofilms. http://www.medhelp.org/user_journals/show/14682/Lactoferrin
· Digestive Enzymes: The digestive system is probably not working as it should with h. pylori and it’s probably a good idea to help it digest each meal by adding 1 capsule with your meals.
· VSL#3 Probiotics: I have seen a lot of research about this particular probiotic and I am impressed by the strains used and the amount that you get in each packet: 450 billion! It is a medical probiotic and is rather expensive but I seem to respond to it the best – and believe me – I have tried several different brands. You can either order it online (it’s shipped in a cold container) or you can find it at well-known pharmacy’s…just go to www.vsl3.com, go to the order page and then open up the pharmacy locator. It will be refrigerated behind the pharmacy counter, not on the shelf. You will need to call the pharmacy to make sure they have the right probiotic available (there are VSL probiotics available that require a doctor’s prescription). Keep in mind that when you order VSL#3 it is $89 for a 30 day supply (it may be cheaper if you buy it at the pharmacy), so you may consider just making your own yogurt or drinking Kefir to avoid the costs of this particular probiotic.
*I will mention that I did use Manuka Honey for about two weeks when starting my regimen but I honestly couldn’t find any compelling solid evidence that it could work for h. pylori or any other intestinal bacteria. I know that some people have cured their h. pylori with it, and I am not going to discount that it may work for some people, but I wasn’t willing to spend more money on a product that may or may not work. However, I will say that Manuka Honey is stellar when it comes to healing wounds and some hospitals have started to take note of its healing properties.
My hope is that this post can help someone as much as it did for me. Unfortunately, I’m still struggling with small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) but I see the light at the end of the tunnel. I am on another regimen for that and working closely with my doctor to monitor my progress. Once I feel that the SIBO is under control, I will definitely post about that too. I will close by saying that any supplement, whether it be for adrenal, thyroid, hormonal, digestive, heart health, or other chronic conditions, make sure to get tested and see where your body is struggling. The worst thing we can do is start guessing and thinking that our symptoms match one condition when it really can be another that is causing your problems. Keep in mind that symptoms can overlap and imitate one another, so order the tests yourself, or even better, find a doctor who is willing to work with you (I know this is almost impossible) so you can be on the right road to recovery.
Here’s to being H. Pylori free!